On the run – again

I cannot bring myself to use the c-word or acronyms in this column. You know the ones. ANC, DA, MK, EFF, GNU. The only acronym I’m prepared to use is WTF. Aren’t you all sick of it? Haven’t you had enough? There’s only one way this filthy business can end.

I’m starting to feel like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, eyes prised open, drugged and forced to watch terrible scenes of ultraviolence. Aversion therapy, man. Watching the local news has a similar effect, except with an overpowering sense of ennui and despair. It’s all over. The fix is in. You can stop watching. The ringmaster has shacked up with the clowns and everything and nothing will be the same.

Let me rather tell you about how my week ended with a road trip. Not one of those happy larks where you meander down a scenic route stopping for milkshakes in quaint towns and taking pictures of sheep or poppies or whatever the hell those yellow things are that grow in fields.

This was Muizenberg to Durban, fleeing Cape Town after 25 years. I set my alarm for 7.30am. It’s important to make an early start on a mission like this. It was still dark when the shouty bastard went off. I thought there’d been a terrible miscalculation. It was also 7° in my cheap Airbnb. Altogether massively traumatising after eight months in Costa Rica where sunrise is at 5.15am year-round and people at the coast reach for a jumper if temps fall below 27°, which they never do.

I wrangled my car out of storage after buying a new battery, limped to the garage to pump up the flat tyre, made sure my surfboard was secure and my short-handled Zulu stabbing spear was within easy reach to fight my way through the Transkei, and gunned it.

It’s a trip I’ve done several times while trying to escape from an apocalyptic marriage. I’d always stop at Jeffreys Bay for a few days to regroup. This time I gave it a miss. Felt I was racing the clock. Not sure why. Perhaps I was afraid that if I dallied I’d come to my senses and turn back. Who in their right mind moves from Cape Town to Durban?

The plan was two overnights and three days of driving, leaving the worst and longest leg for Sunday. I’ve experienced the mayhem of Butterworth, Dutywa and Mthatha on a payday Friday. I love Africa, but not when it’s trying to open my doors or standing on the bumpers getting a ride to the other end of town.

I found an Airbnb just outside Plettenberg Bay. Done Knysna too many times. It’s freezing in winter. I don’t know why I thought Plett would be warmer. It’s 34km down the road. I don’t really understand weather. As always, I triggered the multiple speed traps that welcome visitors to the Garden Route.

I’d never stayed in Plett. Just raced past at 160km/h with a glance and shudder at the hotel that squats uglily on the seafront.

I booked the place because it was cheap and right on the highway. I could’ve stayed somewhere in town but that would’ve meant getting lost. I’m one of those people whose internal compass spins out of control even in familiar surroundings.

It was opposite a golf club down an unmarked dirt road filled with potholes filled with muddy water, a stone’s throw from the N2 but it was too early for the stone-throwers to be out.

There was nobody around. Just three “bungalows” and what looked like the main house, all built with those hideous interlocking concrete blocks. Luckily, brutalist architecture doesn’t make me anxious. Come to think of it, nothing does. Aesthetics are the least of my worries. Not that I have many of those either.

A cat was lying on the bonnet of a derelict car. And an upturned boat. I let it sniff my hand. The cat, not the boat. It turned its head away. In disgust? There’s no telling with cats.

I stuck my head around the open door and noticed the hindquarters of a woman. She appeared to be on her hands and knees. This looked promising. Turned out to be the hired help. Or maybe a slave. Hard to say in frontier country.

A man wearing a bear suit shuffled out of a room and began shouting at me in a baritone voice. I thought of running away but I wasn’t dressed for it. But it wasn’t a man in a bear suit at all, but a massive not-right-in-the-head dog of indeterminate breed. Then there was a woman. She looked like one of Honey Boo-Boo’s people. An extra in that fun family film, Deliverance. Strong Ozark vibes.

In my freezing, criminally undecorated room, the wifi connected to my laptop or my phone, just not at the same time. My job demands that I know everything at all times. Some men pretend to be spies. I pretend to have a job. It’s fine. You do you, I’ll do me.

The tatty A4 sheet in the kitchen reminded me that the owners were not here to “babysit” my pets. Also, I should provide them with their own food. Are there people travelling this country with pets, expecting their Airbnb hosts to feed them? Possibly.

It was also not permitted to light a fire in the room, which was just as well since there was no fireplace.

Under House Rules, it said: “We are off”.

Me too. As soon as the sun comes up.


8 thoughts on “On the run – again

  1. Patricia White says:

    Next time your in Plettenberg Bay – your welcome to stay with us ( for free) & discover some of the more beautiful aspects of Plett & The Crags.

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      Thanks Patricia. Might just take you up on that one day…

  2. John Holloway says:

    I misread this as, ‘The plan was two overnights and three days of heavy drinking . . . ‘. Unsurprising in the context of this column, of course, but re-reading to re-experience this endorphin-packed sentence and the thrill of anticipating a story of unique law-enforcement avoidance strategies and a Thompsonesque gonzo travel experience – was a bring-down. Not only did I realise that you were going to drive – and apparently not simultaneously drink – but also that the days of the 22-hour, non-stop, Durbs/Cape Town trips of the ’60s and ’70s (or 2 days with 1 overnight, max.) are obviously over. Maybe we rotated drivers. Or is the remembered grass on the other side of time just greener?
    PS Thanks for still opening up the odd column to the ungrateful skinflints whose numbers I swell.

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      Bastard skinflints

  3. DEBORAH CROSS says:

    hahahahahaha… Love the way your mind works…

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      My mind baulks at the word “work”

  4. Ginny Swart says:

    The South African tourist board will soon be in touch. They could offer you a regular paying job in promoting the Garden Route!,

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      Always felt I should be some kind of tourism ambassador

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *